The Washington Post is running an article on rural disability. There's a far higher incidence of Social Security disability claims in rural areas. The drift of the article is that this is related to the lack of job opportunities in rural areas, i.e., people can't find jobs so they file disability claims.
I think there is a link between lack of job opportunities in rural areas and Social Security disability claims but I think it's more complicated than this article presents. What happens when there are poor job opportunities in an area but better job opportunities elsewhere? Some people leave to pursue job opportunities elsewhere. Those who leave are on average younger, better educated, smarter and healthier than those who stay. Those left behind are people who are more likely to file disability claims regardless of the job opportunities in their community. Those left behind also have much worse access to health care than those who leave. Health care in most rural areas sucks. Even if you have insurance, it's hard to get good medical care and many in rural areas lack health care insurance. You're more likely to get sick and stay sick if you have poor access to health care.
Those of us who represent Social Security disability claimants like to talk about demographics and access to health care as factors in determining who files disability clams. Newspaper reporters don't like to write articles about demographics and access to health care. It's boring. They like nice simplistic explanations since those are easier for them to understand and convey to readers.
By the way, there's nothing new about the higher incidence of disability claims in rural areas. I live in Raleigh, which was a fair sized and relatively prosperous city when I started practicing Social Security law in 1979. Raleigh and surrounding cities such as Durham, Cary and Chapel Hill have gotten much bigger and more prosperous since. This area has always been surrounded by poor rural counties. From the beginning of my practice, I've gotten more clients from the less populous rural areas than from the urban areas. The incidence of disability has always been higher in rural areas.